Peter Slipper's staffer James Ashby acted "in combination" with his colleague Karen Doane and former Howard Government minister Mal Brough when he began court proceedings against his boss, an Australian Federal Court judge has found.
In a judgment handed down yesterday, Justice Steven Rares dismissed the sexual harassment claim as an abuse of court process, saying Ashby's main purpose was to pursue a political attack against the former Speaker.
The evidence had established "Ashby acted in combination with Ms Doane and Mr Brough when commencing the proceedings in order to advance the interests" of the Queensland Liberal National Party (LNP) and Brough.
"Mr Ashby and Ms Doane set out to use the proceedings as part of their means to enhance or promote their prospects of advancement or preferment by the LNP, including by using Mr Brough to assist them in doing so," Rares wrote.
Brough, who is the Coalition's candidate for the Queensland federal seat of Fisher held by Slipper first as an LNP member and now as an Independent, initially said he was gobsmacked by the finding. Later he said the decision changed nothing about the former Speaker's "vile text messages".
Slipper resigned as Speaker on October 9 after documents revealed a series of text messages he allegedly sent to Ashby.
The judgment said Ashby began planning his "attack" in February 2012, after taking up the job as adviser to Slipper on December 22, 2011.
"Mr Ashby and Ms Doane had decided by March 29, 2012, that Mr Ashby would make allegations of sexual harassment in legal proceedings against Mr Slipper."
Evidence of job-seeking was found in an email by Doane to Brough, to which she attached a resume and asked it be considered by billionaire Clive Palmer, then a major donor to the LNP.